A Round of Applause for CBS-2 in Exposing Their Own Bias
My strongly favorite TV news channel, Channel 2, CBS in Chicago veered a bit off the mark the other day when a political news producer, Ed Marshall, gave a Dutch uncle talk to GOP Senate candidate Mark Kirk…telling him that it may stop covering him or the Senate race if Kirk continues to harp on the failure of Alexi Giannoulias’ family bank and Giannoulias’ responsibility for it.
Marshall…whoever he is…said that CBS upstairs had decided to black out news about the Senate race if Kirk stressed that issue. Frankly, it’s the height of arrogance for any news outlet to all but order a candidate what not to say in a campaign. But it reflects “Walter’s Perspective”…the tired haranguing of `60s-70s old-time IVI-IPO warrior Skippy Jacobson who has an editorial segment on the otherwise extraordinarily good station. Skippy…always a voice of the Left even when it’s outdated…recently grumbled in an editorial that the news media was overdoing it on the Giannoulias bank. No one can remember when he did the same about Republican embarrassments.
“Alexi’s been pilloried,” Marshall said…which makes you think he has a personal, immediate concern for Giannoulias’ political welfare.
This is what Marshall said to Kirk: “Channel 2’s made a decision. We’re really not going to cover the Senate race if it consistently, only in your terms, is about Broadway Bank. The bank’s been taken over by the government; Alexi’s been pilloried. Tell me: what is your campaign going forward [sic]? What are the issues that you are going to tell the voters why they should vote for you?”
Then Kirk listed a whole litany of issues: small business help, fiscal responsibility and integrity…and then honesty in government.
MARSHALL: “So from this time forward you’re not going to spend time on the Broadway Bank issue because every day I get that release from Eric [Kirk’s press secretary] that says `Reality Check.’ Alexi tries to change the conversation, you know.”
Kirk answered correctly: “I’m not going to be able to control the debate. You will.”
That’s the most egregious example of a supposedly objective TV producer muscling one candidate in favor of another candidate that I’ve seen since I started in this business in 1953…and Marshall had the effrontery to make no bones about it but to put it on the record. He should be taken off the political beat.
Now having said all this, CBS-TV 2 Chicago handled this story with utmost class. It ran the unedited transcript and published it as well on its website. It summarized this way which is high-minded and beautiful: “CBS 2 will continue to report on the Kirk-Giannoulias campaign all the way to November. And we will continue to report on any new developments involving the failed Broadway Bank. However, CBS 2 will also challenge the candidates to talk about many important issues beyond the Broadway Bank, facing citizens of Illinois.”
The news staff of CBS 2 Chicago is almost uniformly excellent. Starting with the anchor Rob Johnson and particularly Mike Parker who is a thoroughly erudite and highly responsible newsman. Many-many years ago I watched in awe as Parker interviewed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (I was a volunteer with the Institute of Religious Life then, helping her get her pitifully small carpet-bag of belongings and driving her to what was then Felician College for her address.)
I stood in the background and watched Mike Parker interview her before she went on. And let me tell you: His questions showed such a depth of understanding and nuance of religious, intellectual and spiritual feeling for a secular reporter that I was amazed: the greatest feat of interviewing I’ve seen in my 81 years on this earth. He’s the finest employee CBS 2 has. Tough-minded, fair with a clear no-nonsense presentation as he stands at the anchor desk. Everyone else is terrific too…but I have a special regard for Parker and Johnson.
Tom Roeser is the Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Chicago Daily Observer